Researchers take a step towards achieving topological qubits in graphene

Researchers from Spain, Finland and France have demonstrated that magnetism and superconductivity can coexist in graphene, opening a path towards graphene-based topological qubits.

Schematic illustration of the interplay of magnetism and superconductivity in a graphene grain boundary imageSchematic illustration of the interplay of magnetism and superconductivity in a graphene grain boundary, a potential building block for carbon-based topological qubits Credit: Jose Lado/Aalto University

In the quantum realm, electrons can behave in interesting ways. Magnetism is one of these behaviors that can be seen in everyday life, as is the rarer phenomena of superconductivity. Intriguingly, these two behaviors are often antagonists - the existence of one of them often destroys the other. However, if these two opposite quantum states are forced to coexist artificially, an elusive state called a topological superconductor appears, which is useful for researchers trying to make topological qubits.

Researchers manage to induce “artificial magnetic texture” in graphene

An international research team, led by the University at Buffalo, has reported an advancement that could help give graphene magnetic properties. The researchers describe in their work how they paired a magnet with graphene, and induced what they describe as “artificial magnetic texture” in the nonmagnetic material.

Induced magnetism in graphene could also promote spintronics imageThe image shows eight electrodes around a 20-nanometer-thick magnet (white rectangle) and graphene (white dotted line). Credit: University at Buffalo.

“Independent of each other, graphene and spintronics each possess incredible potential to fundamentally change many aspects of business and society. But if you can blend the two together, the synergistic effects are likely to be something this world hasn’t yet seen,” says lead author Nargess Arabchigavkani, who performed the research as a PhD candidate at UB and is now a postdoctoral research associate at SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

Graphene/hBN SQUID detects even the faintest magnetic fields

Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland, Budapest University of Technology and Economics in Hungary and National Institute for Material Science in Japan have developed a new, super-small device that is capable of detecting minute magnetic fields.

Conventional vs. new SQUID imageA conventional SQUID (left) and the new SQUID (right). (University of Basel, Department of Physics)

The device, a new kind of superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID), is just 10 nanometres high, or around a thousandth of the thickness of a human hair. It's made from two layers of graphene – making it one of the smallest SQUIDs ever built – separated by a very thin layer of boron nitride.

Graphene acts as superconductor, insulator and ferromagnet in a single device

A collaborative group of scientists has designed a device that makes use of graphene’s assorted talents: superconducting, insulating, and a type of magnetism called ferromagnetism. The multitasking device could enable new physics experiments, such as research in the pursuit of an electric circuit for faster, next-generation electronics like quantum computing technologies.

The graphene deviceon a silicon dioxide/silicon chip imageAn optical image of the graphene device (shown above as a square gold pad) on a silicon dioxide/silicon chip. Shining metal wires are connected to gold electrodes for electrical measurement. (Credit: Guorui Chen/Berkeley Lab)

“So far, materials simultaneously showing superconducting, insulating, and magnetic properties have been very rare. And most people believed that it would be difficult to induce magnetism in graphene, because it’s typically not magnetic. Our graphene system is the first to combine all three properties in a single sample,” said Guorui Chen, a postdoctoral researcher in Wang’s Ultrafast Nano-Optics Group at UC Berkeley, and the study’s lead author.

Stanford team finds novel form of magnetism in twisted bi-layer graphene

Stanford physicists recently observed a novel form of magnetism, predicted but never seen before, that is generated when two graphene sheets are carefully stacked and rotated to a special angle. The researchers suggest the magnetism, called orbital ferromagnetism, could prove useful for certain applications, such as quantum computing.

bi-layer graphene between hBN gives off orbital ferromagnetism imageOptical micrograph of the assembled stacked structure, which consists of two graphene sheets sandwiched between two protective layers made of hexagonal boron nitride. (Image: Aaron Sharpe)

“We were not aiming for magnetism. We found what may be the most exciting thing in my career to date through partially targeted and partially accidental exploration,” said study leader David Goldhaber-Gordon, a professor of physics at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences. “Our discovery shows that the most interesting things turn out to be surprises sometimes.”